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Monday, June 17, 2013

Supreme Court Strikes Down Arizona Voter Registration Law

In a 7-2 opinion issued this morning (Justices Alito and Thomas dissenting), the U.S. Supreme Court found that Arizona's voter registration law violates federal law, specifically the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.  The federal law requires an individual to fill out a federal form to register to vote.  Arizona's law, which was adopted by ballot initiative (Proposition 200), requires voter registration officials to reject any federal form that is not accompanied by documentary proof of citizenship.  The Court found that the Elections Clause preempts states from requiring additional information beyond that required by the federal form.  The Court also rejected Arizona's argument that the Elections Clause provides authority to states to establish the "time, place, and manner" of elections.  The Court acknowledged, however, that states have the right to reject a voter registration based on information possessed by the state that establishes a person's ineligibility. 
Justice Thomas, in his dissent, rejects the majority's preemption conclusion and would uphold Arizona's law.  Specifically, he would construe the law as only requiring Arizona to "accept and use the form as part of its voter registration process, leaving the State free to request whatever additional information it determines is necessary to ensure that voters meet the qualifications it has the constitutional authority to establish."  Because Arizona did "accept and use" the federal form, there is no conflict between the Arizona law and federal law, according to Justice Thomas.
Justice Alito also dissented, emphasizing the presumption against preemption.  In his view, Arizona was simply enforcing the federal law requirement that voters be citizens by requiring documentary evidence establishing citizenry. 
You can read the entire opinion here:  Arizona et al. v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc. et al.


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